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Pope Visits Nairobi Slum; Urges Africa's Governments To Help Those In Poverty


Papa Francis, as he's known in Africa, travels from Kenya to Uganda today, the second stop on his trip to Africa. The pope began this morning in a place world leaders more typically avoid, an impoverished neighborhood of Nairobi. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is traveling with Francis and joins us now to talk more about what he's been doing. Good morning.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now the Vatican does choose the pope's itinerary quite carefully with his message in mind. So how was that playing out today there in Nairobi?

POGGIOLI: Today, Pope Francis went to visit one of the famous slums of Nairobi. Apparently, something like more than the majority of the population in Nairobi live in slums. This was the Kangemi slum. And there he said that it's the poor neighborhoods that authentic wisdom is found.

MONTAGNE: And Sylvia, yesterday, there in Nairobi, Francis celebrated mass, of course. But afterward, he spoke in a very secular setting, the U.N. Environmental Agency, which is based there. What did he say?

POGGIOLI: He spoke at first off just four days just before the very crucial Paris climate change talks start, and he has been really hammering on this issue all year. First, he did a - issued a teaching document called an encyclical in June. And then he spoke about this very forcefully at the U.N. in New York in September. And yesterday, he said it would be catastrophic if special interest prevail over the common good and lead to manipulation of information at the Paris conference. He didn't specify exactly what he meant, but it's clear that this is, again, this is one of his favorite themes. He's always expressed disdain for the less affair, consumer-oriented economic model and for climate change deniers. He said this is a issue that cannot be ignored. Either we improve the environment or we destroy it.

MONTAGNE: And his final stop is in the Central African Republic. There has been a lot of talk about him going there because that country is in the midst of a vicious civil war. Is it possible that he will not make it there?

POGGIOLI: Well, as according to the Vatican spokesman yesterday, Father Federico Lombardi, absolutely nothing has changed. He actually said the closer the date comes, which will be Sunday, the less doubt there is about his going there. It certainly is brought with a lot of risks. The situation is very, very tense there. There's been a lot of killings in the last few weeks. They are U.N. peacekeepers, but they had said that they will not deploy extra security for the pope. He has an ambitious schedule there. He wants to even jumpstart the start of his Jubilee Year of Mercy by 10 days in the cathedral in the capital of Bangui. So he really wants to go. And the official Vatican daily, the Osservatore Romano, wrote yesterday that when he bordered the plane in Rome the other day, and on the Italia flight, he told the pilot, I want to go to the Central African Republic, and if you can't manage it, give me a parachute.

MONTAGNE: Sylvia, thanks very much.

POGGIOLI: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is traveling with Pope Francis in Africa, joining us from Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.